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IU Northwest anthropology student calls for compassion

Katie Huish aims to spend her career helping refugees resettle

Wednesday Apr 06, 2016

Katie Huish, a sophomore at Indiana University Northwest, chose to major in anthropology because of her interest in the world’s cultures and their people.

And unlike many, who sometimes pursue a particular degree based on their interests and then discover later what their education qualifies them to do, this 21-year-old Hobart woman knows precisely how she plans to use her anthropology degree.                                         

Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present, and, as stated by the American Anthropology Association, “a central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems.”

This statement seems to perfectly describe Huish’s focus, which is to apply her knowledge to ease the journey of refugees and foster understanding of their plight.

Huish is currently interning with a non-profit organization, the Chicagoland Immigrant Welcome Network (CIWN), based in Hammond, which offers immigrant legal services. The group hopes to begin resettling refugees in Northwest Indiana as early as November. The CIWN is affiliated with World Relief, which is one of nine agencies in the U.S. that works to resettle refugees in the U.S.

As part of her internship, Huish had the opportunity to travel to Macedonia in March to assist the Syrian refugees who are trying to get resettled into Europe. Huish estimated that there were perhaps 1,500 people stranded there, with limited food and sleeping areas, and no showers as they work through the process of escaping their war-torn area. Huish financed the trip on her own and secured a small amount of donations to cover the fresh fruit and hot tea she bought to feed about 1,200 people, as well as milk, juice, baby food and formula.

Upon her return, after she had witnessed firsthand the struggles of the people, she feels more compelled than ever to educate others about their plight and educate others about the process of resettling people who have been displaced by war or disaster into a new country.

“This is a sad crisis, but it needs to be addressed in a compassionate light,” Huish said.

Huish put together a presentation for the campus and community, titled, “Call for Compassion.” In March, she invited a CIWN colleague and two students who have had experiences with resettlement into the U.S., to talk about their experiences. Her aim is to breakdown the barrier of fear that hinders the effort to provide safe homes for refugees.

“Many people do not know or understand the facts behind these refugees and this feeds their fear,” Huish explained. “I want our campus as well as our community in Northwest Indiana to understand, to welcome the stranger, to show compassion and to understand that it is okay to have different views in religion and different ethnicities than others.”

This can be a daunting task, Huish admits. She emphasizes that the process of being accepted into the U.S. is not an easy one.

“I want people to understand that that is a huge vetting process that they have to go through,” she said. “It takes them about a year and a half to three years to get into the U.S. It is very thorough. It’s not like they just hand them a visa and let them in because they are in need. That is not how it goes.”

When she graduates, expected in 2017, Huish hopes to become a refugee resettlement case manager.

But for as determined and focused as she is now, she was once equally indecisive. Upon graduating from Hobart High School, Huish first attended the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. There, she simply couldn’t settle on a major that fit her. Confused about what path to take, she took a year off and made her way back to Northwest Indiana.

Arriving at IU Northwest just two semesters ago, Huish jumped in got involved. Admitting she was at first shy and hesitant, she became a Student Ambassador and joined the Student Alumni Association.

“Coming to IU Northwest, I didn’t think it would be a fun experience,” she admits, “But I love it. I have found it is everything that I didn’t expect it to be and my professors have really offered me support.”

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